India announces easing of lockdown restrictions

An Indian family travels on a scooter during lockdown in Bangalore, India, April 24, 2020. India has locked down its entire population, including an estimated 176 million people who struggle to survive on $1.90 a day or less – AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi

NEW DELHI: India announces easing of a stringent lockdown for 1.3 billion people by allowing opening of neighborhood and standalone shops with restrictions such as 50% of workers with face masks and social distancing.

A home ministry statement issued late Friday says that shops in single and multi-brand malls would not be allowed to open anywhere in the country.

The relaxation also would not be applicable in hundreds of hotspots and containment zones across the country. India has so far reported more than 18,600 positive new coronavirus cases and 775 deaths. The worst-hit states are Maharashtra with 6,817 positive cases, Gujarat with 3,815 cases, New Delhi 2,514 and Rajasthan 2,034 cases.

India imposed a lockdown for its 1.3 billion people on March 25 and it is due to end on May 3. Last week, the government allowed resumption of manufacturing and farming activities in rural areas as millions of daily wage-earners were left without work.

The Home Ministry said the rise in number of positive cases in India is linear, not exponential.